LONDON (Reuters) - International tourist arrivals grew 4 percent between January and August year-on-year and are heading for the 1 billion mark for the first time by December, the UN World Tourism Organization said on Monday.
Chinese spending on travel abroad grew significantly, it said.
Tourist numbers grew 5 percent in emerging economies compared with a 4 percent rise in advanced economies. UNWTO forecast overall growth of no more than 4 percent for the full year.
UNWTO numbers showed that the only region to report a decline in tourist numbers compared with the first eight months of 2011 was the Middle East with 1 percent fewer arrivals.
Countries reported their own data to the UNWTO regarding their earnings from and expenditure on international travel, varyingly covering a period between the first six and nine months of 2012.
With the data available to the UNWTO so far, spending on travel abroad rose 30 percent in China, followed by 22 percent in Poland, 15 percent in Russia, 16 percent in Argentina, 18 percent in Malaysia and 11 percent in India.
The United States, Canada, Germany and Australia reported single-digit growth in travel expenditure.
Italy and France showed a decline in spending on travel abroad, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer which aims at monitoring the short-term evolution of tourism.
Earnings from tourism grew 48 percent in Japan, 26 percent in Sweden, South Korea and South Africa and 17 percent in Hong Kong.
In 2011, total earnings from international tourism receipts reached $1.2 trillion or 6 percent of the world's exports, according to the UNWTO.
Reporting By Shadia Nasralla. Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.